Diplopoda: India

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This is an extract from
Protozoa to Mammalia
State of the Art.
Zoological Survey of India, 1991.
By Professor Mohammad Shamim Jairajpuri
Director, Zoological Survey of India
and his team of devoted scientists.
The said book is an enlarged, updated version of
The State of Art Report: Zoology
Edited by Dr. T. N. Ananthakrishnan,
Director, Zoological Survey of India in 1980.

Note: This article is likely to have several spelling mistakes that occurred during scanning. If these errors are reported as messages to the Facebook page, Indpaedia.com your help will be gratefully acknowledged.




Millipedes are joint-footed, many segmented, animals having double pairs of legs on each body segment, of which the body coils when disturbed or exudes some badly odourous fluids for self defence. The body (trunk) segments are being formed by the fusion of two originally separate somites. Due to presence of diplosegment, these are grouped as the class Diplopoda of the phylum Arthropoda, though all the body segments are not always diplosegmented. The rust post-cephalic segment (column) forms a large collar behind the head and devoid of any legs, while second the fourth segments carry only a pair of legs. Body terminates in telson on which the arms opens ventrally.

Millipeds prefer damp, humid and shady places. Usually they are found beneath the fallen leaves, stones, bark rotten logs ~din the soil. Some are seem even in the houses, or underside the thatch of the cottages. They show a wise choice of food preference. They are primarily hervivourous, mostly feed on decaying plant tissue, including leaf, litter, fungi, fruiting bodies and the excrement of herbivorous mammals. A large number of species also consume food of animal origin; soine are obviously omnivores.

Millipodes and centipedes were originally included in the• class Insecta in which they were retained until Leach (1814) who impressed by their distinctness created a separate class Myriapoda for them. The separation of millipedes was further supported by Newport (1844) and Koch (1817). Subsequently Symphyla and Pauropoda were also included under Myriapoda. On the basis of the anterior gonopore, the millipedes, symphylids are pauropods were transferred under Superclass-Progoneata, and the centipedes with• posterior gonopore formed another superclass ¬opisthogoneata. Thereafter, superclass Progoneata has been further split up into classes Diplopoda, Symphyla and Pauropoda.

Economically the millipedes are important both as friend and foe. A good number of millipedes are found in the agricultural fields, such as jute, cotton banana, guava etc., where they help us in soil aeration as well as humification of the soil. The millipedes playa prominent role in the ecosystem and can be easily called as "Macrodegrader" Millipedes also damage a wide range of horticultural and field crops including beans, peas, cucumbers, cabbage, cereals, potatoes, sugarbeat etc.

Works on the Indian forms of Diplopoda are fragmentry and scattered.

Historical Resume

Diplopoda have hitherto, received comparatively less attention from scientists then other groups of arthropods.

i) Pre-1900

Pocock (1849) published a monograph on the pill millpedes inhabiting India, Sri Lanka and Burma, in which he described a number of species from India.

ii) 1901-1947

Silvestri (1917 and 1920) studied the Oniscomorpha -Glomeriidae of Oriental region, and described 16 new species of millipedes from India. Carl (1932), a well known diplopodologist, explored the South India and published the first chapter of his results on the Indian species of Polydesmoidea. In his monograph he described 41 new species and 23 new genera from India. In 1936 Attems who was also a pioneer worker on this group, published his monographic work on. Indian Diplopoda in Mem. Indian Museum. Attems has described 62 new species and 15 new genera in this work.

iii) 1948-1900

Krishnan (1968) published a memoir on the millipede Thyrophygus poseidon, in which anatomical, ecological and physiological aspects of this species have been discussed. Deka et.al. (1971) have described a new species of millipede from Assam. In 1987 Enghoff, while revising the genus Nepalmatolulus from South east Asia, described a ,new speci~ fro~ India. A new species of millipede has also been reported by Golovatch (1988). Recently Prasad el al., (1981 and 19,85) have described the bioecology of banana inhabiting millipede, Anoplodesmus saussurei and a jute field inhabiting millipede, Streptogonopus pripsoni from West Bengal. Sen &Mitra (1977) recorded one species Orthomorpha coaretala (Saussure), for the frrst time from India.

Karyological studies in adults of nine Indian species of Diplopoda has been made by Achari (1983). Sukla el ale (1980) have' also studied the morphology of the malpiglian tubules of a millipede from Gorakhpur (U.P.).

Studies from Different Environs

Informations available on the Indian Diplopoda are published in various scientific journals viz., Rec. Indian Mus., Mem. Indian Mus., J. Bombay nat. Hisl. Soc. and J. Assam Sci. Soc. Among all the parts of India, only South India can be considered as properly explored for this purpose, and out of 162 species of millipedes 93 species are recorded from .there alone. Next to South India is West Bengal, from where 32 species of Diplopoda are recognised. From Eastern part (Sikkim, Assam and Meghalaya) 20 species of millipedes are reported. Only 7 species are recorded from Northern parts of India. One species each is reported from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Maldive Islands. Diplopoda materials present in the Indian Museum, Calcutta, from Bombay (Maharashtra) and Gujarat have been earlier studied. Altogether 10 species of millipedes were recorded from Maharashtra (Bombay) and two species from Gujaral

Estimation of Taxa

Diplopoda fauna of India is incompletely known at present. Therefore, an accurate assessment of taxa is not feasible in the present state of knowledge of this group. So far only 162 species belonging to 59 genera, under 12 families, are recorded from India.

Classified Treatment

In India, millipedes are represented by 12 families, viz., Sphaerotheridae (5 genera, 45 species), Glomeridae (one genus, 3 species), Glomeridesmidae (one genus, one species), Strongylosomichie• (one genus, one species), Paradoxosomatidae (14 genera, 33 species), Vanhoeffiniidae (4 genera, S' species), Cryptodesmidae (9 genera, 18 species), Cambalidae (4 genera, 7 species), Harpagophoridac (9 genera, 23 species), Spirobolidae (one genus, one species), Trigoniulidae (5 genera, 6 species) and Pachybolidae (3 genera, 10 species). A large number of Indian species of DipJopoda are recorded from South India, Darjeeling, Sikkim. Assam and Meghalaya, because these have been better explored for this purpose. A few species of the group are also reported from Bombay, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

Current Studies

Presently from the taxonomic point of view nobody is working on millipedes in India•. G. S. Sukla. O. Krishnan, K. Bano and S. K. Gokhale are working on the bioecology, cytology, anatomy and physiology etc., of this group, in various universities.

Expertise India

G. S. SuIda, University of Gorakhpur, Gorakhpur, U.P. [Cytology]. G. Krishnan, Zoological Research Laboratory, University of Madras, Madras. [Physiology & Anatomy].


J. G. Blower, Department of Zoology, University of Manchester, Manchester, M-139 PL England. [Bioecology].

R. L. Hoffman, Redford' College, Redford, Virginia -24142 (U.S.A.). [Taxonomy].

S. I. Galovatch, Academy of Science, Leninsky Prospekt -33, Moscow -V-71 U.S.S.R. [Taxonomy].

Selected References

Attems, C. 1936. Diplopoda of India. Mem. Indian Mus., 11 : 133-316. Enghoff, H. 1987. Revision of Nepalmatolulus Mauries 1983 -I. South east Asiatic genus of millipedes (Diplopoda : Julida : Julidae). Cour. Forschnun gasinst Sencken, 93: 241¬ 331.

Krishnan, G. 1968. The millipede, Thyropygus with special references to Indian species. CSIR, Zoological Mem., Indian Animal Types, No 1 : 1-84.

Silvestri, F. 1917. Contribution to a knowledge of the Oriental Diplopoda, Oniscomorpha. Rec. Indian Mus., 13 : 103-151.

Silvestri, F. 1920. Description of some Oriental Diplopoda Polydesmoidea of the Subfamily Pyrgodesminae. Rec.lndian Mus., 19 : 117-135.

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